• He's been called the Pied Piper of the Second Running Boom. Once an overweight couch potato with a glut of bad habits, including smoking and drinking, at the age of 43 Bingham looked mid-life in the face—and started running.

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Passing the Baton

I know this is Monday, or at least it’s Monday as I write this. Moving ahead I’m going to try to blog every Wednesday morning. The Summer/Fall/Winter event season is upon me and once it starts I’ll be traveling Thursday through Monday nearly every week until Christmas. So, think “Tuesdays with Morrie”, but “Wednesdays with the Penguin”.

And, as I said last week, I’m relatively new at this personal blogging. Jenny [jennyhadfield.com] has been a successful blogger for years, on RunnersWorld.com and other sites. She seems to be designed for the digital medium. She’s learned how to distill ideas into their essence. It’s quite a talent. I, on the other hand, tend to be a story-teller and my thoughts – like now – can sometimes wander like a child chasing butterflies. But I’m trying.

In the words of the Buffalo Springfield song, “There’s something happening here. What it is ain’t exactly clear “. With the ascent of American runners into the top echelon, the growth of the destination events, especially the half marathon, and the shift in the running demographics from nearly all men to – in some events – upwards of 70% women, there’s something happening here. I can’t put my finger on it yet, but it’s there.

In 1997 I met with the then president of a major running apparel company. I explained to him that there was a new running boom on the horizon, that they were a bit older, a bit slower, and that a whole lot of them were female. He told me straight out that I was wrong. Most people, and especially women he opined, would try running for a little while and then retreat to their basements and living rooms with their Jane Fonda videos. His company has since gone out of business.

When I was writing as the advocate – and almost the only advocate – of the second running boom I was viewed by many as a carrier of the disease of mediocrity that was trying to infect their beloved sport. What they didn’t understand was that I was fueled by their ridicule. I was right. I knew I was right. And they weren’t going to scare me off.

These days, though, I have stopped shouting. I have stopped waving my editorial sword at race directors, sponsors, and running specialty manufacturers. Most, not all, but most get it now. The battle for acceptance is over. We’ve won.

It’s a good feeling, but it is a different feeling. The baton has been passed to a generation of runners and walkers who will never know what it’s like to finish a marathon in 5 hours and be DEAD last. All I ask of those who carry the baton forward is to remember that a lot of very good people made this possible.

Waddle on,

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7 Responses

  1. John, being a half dozen years ahead of you on the pathway through life, let me give you a bit of interesting information. As we get older, the phrase “attractive young woman” covers a broader portion of society. And if you think about it, that’s not a bad thing to consider while doing a marathon, riding an elip-ti-go, just taking a stroll, or sitting on a bench for a moment watching life’s parade.

    Walking Tom

  2. Hey John, thanks as always for inspiring me and those of us who got started later. I’m a walker thanks to Team in Training. I’m now a mentor for other walkers with TNT. I’m a slow walker, have finished last in a race, and relished every moment because of something I heard you say about getting the most out of your time on the course. I just wish more race directors who promote their races as “walker friendly” actually meant it. If it takes me four hours to finish a half marathon and you tell me you are a walker friendly race, then please remember I’m still out there. Don’t fold up the water stops or the course. (Sorry if I sound cranky, but I love my success and feel diminished by this kind of thing!). Waddle on, my friend, and thanks for speaking for all of us late bloomers!

    • I am a runner, but a slow runner and I had the same thought about the half-marathon I did when I finished 40 min ahead of the alotted 4 hr time and “barely” got my picture taken because they were packing it up. There were about 45 people who finished after me and I thought how unfair. Just because you are slower than the rest you should be given the same respect and a chance to enjoy your success of finishing.

  3. So far the blog is awesome! 🙂

  4. A lady at work said something about how “skinny” I had gotten. That word and my name usually do NOT occupy the same sentence. I told her I had taken up running 7 months ago. I encouraged her to try it and told her I am NOT a fast runner. People are inspired by me and what I’ve accomplished. Here I am 7 months later having done 11 5k’s and 1 half-marathon. As I ran that half I thought about what you said about taking time to enjoy the scenery. And as I ran here in Tucson I wondered how many that day saw the beauty in the Mtns that I did as I finished that half marathon. Thanks for inspiring all of us “Penguins”

  5. I enjoyed reading this. Keep on bloggin’ and thank you for sharing your passion. It fuels mine own.

  6. Thank you so much for being a voice to us slower runners. What we also need is a voice for us larger runners. It is so frustrating trying to find a place in an industry which caters to the fit and fast. How about some more gear for those of us in plus sizes? Have any connections there???
    Waddle on, John!!

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